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Morning Coffee – Sat, May 23

Is it six feet apart and less than five people or five feet apart and less than six people?

Gordon Monson: Jerry Sloan was a lion and a lamb – The Salt Lake Tribune

Larry Miller used to love telling the story about Sloan’s calm during a kerfuffle in the Jazz locker room during halftime of a game when the coach scolded Greg Ostertag in front of the team for some mindless indiscretion, and Ostertag responded by throwing a bag of ice at Sloan’s head. Sloan saw the bag coming, leaned his head slightly to the side as the ice bag blew by, exploding against the wall behind him. Larry said Sloan “just kept on talking like nothing had happened.”

LeBron James is the best NBA player right now – Sports Illustrated

Honorable Mentions – Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo

It’s hard to knock Leonard out of the top spot after winning Finals MVP, but that’s more a testament to James’ continued excellence than anything against the former Raptors star. Leonard has followed up his spectacular 2019 playoffs with a solid 2020, albeit one that has been partially marred by injury. And when the 2019-20 season resumes, we should expect to see Leonard and the Clippers at the peak of their powers. Los Angeles is 24–9 when both Paul George and Leonard play in 2019-20, outscoring teams by 11.6 points per 100 possessions. If the Clippers are healthy, they’re certainly among the favorites to win the Finals. We could very well see Leonard win his third Finals MVP with three different teams in 2020.

Just as the 1990s belonged to Michael Jordan and the 2010s belonged to LeBron James, the 2020s could very well be the decade of Giannis. Milwaukee’s superstar is hurtling to his second straight MVP in 2019-20, and this year’s campaign has been especially dominant. Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in PER and defensive rating. He’s fourth in points and rebounds. He’s one of three players since 1980 to average at least 29 points, 13 rebounds and five assists per game in a season, and Milwaukee entered the coronavirus suspension on a 67-win pace. Statistically speaking, Giannis has a strong case for Best Player Alive.

Perhaps Antetokounmpo will seize the title with a Finals victory in July or August, but for now, it’s hard to place him above a pair of players with multiple Finals MVPs. James is the NBA’s assists leader, and he’s still an elite physical force. Leonard defeated Antetokounmpo and Co. in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals. He delivered Toronto its first title in franchise history, and in 2020, he’s remains an elite two-way force. The margin is close, but James and Leonard still have the edge over Antetokounmpo.

Patrick Ewing Says He Has Tested Positive for Coronavirus – The New York Times

Patrick Ewing, the Knicks great who is now coaching the Georgetown University men’s basketball team, announced on Friday evening that he had Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“This virus is serious and should not be taken lightly,” Ewing said in a statement from the university’s athletic department. “I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”

The statement said that Ewing, 57, was “under care and isolated” at a hospital in the Washington area and that he was the only person in the men’s basketball program known to have tested positive.

As of Friday night, at least 5.1 million cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed around the world, and at least 335,000 people had died during the pandemic. A handful of N.B.A. players are known to have tested positive for the coronavirus, as has James L. Dolan, the owner of the Knicks.

McGrady: Raptors would’ve faced Lakers for a championship if I stayed | theScore.com

Tracy McGrady spent just three seasons in Toronto before departing in free agency, leaving many to wonder how successful the Raptors could’ve been had he and cousin Vince Carter both remained with the team long term.

The way McGrady sees it, there’s no doubt the Raptors would’ve made it to the NBA Finals if he stayed.

“We would’ve played for a championship,” McGrady told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the latest episode of the “All the Smoke” podcast. “We would’ve faced the Lakers if I would’ve stayed, there’s no doubt about that. But, there was so much stuff going on in Toronto with the organization. There was no way I could’ve stayed.”

Top 5 Undrafted Raptors & Players Of All Time | Basketball Central @Home – Sportsnet.ca

Alvin Williams chats with Mychal Mulder; Brad Fay, Alvin Williams & Michael Grange pick their top Undrafted Raptors & share their Top 5 Undrafted players of all-time; and we wrap up with another entertaining edition of Swishes & Bricks.

Underdog Week: The 2009-10 Toronto Raptors were the squad that paved Toronto’s way to greatness – Raptors HQ

The Raptors knew what they had in star player Chris Bosh, had just traded for Reggie Evans, and were banking on the continued improvement of their 2006 first overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Knowing the team had a relatively solid big-man core and really not having much of a choice with the lack of credible better options available, Colangelo went into the 2009 Draft and selected Compton native and fellow string bean, DeMar DeRozan with the ninth overall pick. Now, if you weren’t watching Raptors basketball during this era, you should know that rookie DeMar couldn’t hold a candle to present day DeMar, but the Raps needed a young guard and a young guard they got.

Was Colangelo done there? Oh hellllllll no! Two weeks later, he swung a massive four-team trade that landed Devean George, Antoine Wright and, with the promise of a new contract, Hedo Turkoglu. That’s right, the Hedo Turkoglu! Hedo Turkoglu of playoff flame-thrower fame. The guy who was, behind Dwight Howard, arguably the most important player on the 2009 Orlando Magic that lost in the Finals to the behemoth Lakers.

This was one of the biggest gets in Toronto Raptors history and Colangelo still had more ammo in the chamber. After the big trade, Colangelo signed Jarrett Jack (good friend of Bosh), Rasho Nesterovic (because you needed three 7-footers in the 2009-10 NBA), and traded for sharpshooter Marco Belinelli, the beloved Amir Johnson, and the untapped potential of Sonny Weems.

The Raptors’ underdog narrative was set perfectly and if you’ve been a fan since before the championship season, you can probably guess what happened next. They stunk right out of the gate! Sure, Bosh was newly jacked and the offense was humming, but the defense, my God the defense! Toronto ended up finishing dead last in several defensive categories (their worst defensive rating in franchise history to boot) while finishing in the top five in many offensive categories. Now, much of the defensive issues could be blamed on a relatively new head coach having to work a almost entirely new roster into a contender basically overnight, but it didn’t change the fact that the Raptors were looking less like an underdog and more like a dog’s breakfast.

Sources – Teams asking NBA if they can report directly to campus sites

Executives from Brooklyn, Boston, New York and Toronto were among those on Thursday’s general manager’s call with the league office who expressed concern about how waiting on the league to release a timetable complicates their ramp-ups to return in ways that are unique to those marketplaces, sources said.

For example, here’s what Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry wants to avoid: He has been working out in Philadelphia and could have to return to Toronto and quarantine for two weeks — without a guarantee that Canadian regulations would let him use the team’s facility during that period of time. Conditioning gains he had made could be dulled — just as Lowry and others are looking to accelerate preparation.

Some teams have considered setting up temporary training camps at interim stops prior to arriving at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where Eastern Conference teams expect they’ll be stationed to complete the season, sources said. Twenty-one of the league’s practice facilities are open for voluntary workouts but most players on the Knicks and Nets haven’t returned to the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, New York. In most instances, front-office executives said, they’re unable to get players to return to their markets to start preparing for the season’s resumption without the commissioner announcing that the season will be resumed.

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